Originally posted October 16, 2010

To mark the 20th anniversary of Anita Baker’s ground breaking 1990 recording Compositons myself and GFM contributing blogger Rick Wyatt discuss the recording and we would love for you to submit your answers to these questions here in the comments section. Stay tuned because we are working on setting up a live chat event on our Facebook Page where we will further discuss the recording and its impact.

When did you first hear ‘Compositions”?

Rick: My soph. yr roomate Craig Galloway had a copy. My dad had it but my man Craig..played it one Sunday afternoon while we were chillin’ in the dorm. I always felt that “Rapture” was her Thriller and Purple Rain. But “Compositions” was more like 1999 and Off The Wall.

Ivan: I believe it was the mid-late Summer of 1990. I had purchased the cassingle of “Talk To Me” earlier that Summer and made plans to purchase the album as soon as it was released. At this particular point in my life Anita was the standard for me… you’re always walking into unfamiliar territory with a new release but after first listen, Compositions would become my soundtrack for the next year or so.

What in your opinion makes “Compositions” so special?

Ivan: Oh that’s a very easy question for me. Compositions is special for how it was recorded. We are talking about the height of the “New Jack” era where every song on the radio has drum machines with these heavily quantized, multi-layered beats that are impossible for a drummer to recreate live and programmed synths gone to bed. Compositions comes out as an essentially “live” studio recording where the musicians and Anita performed together, no MIDI sequencing, minimal overdubs and fantastic engineering.

Rick : 1st the cover is classic. Looks “blue note-ish”.Looks like they took the pic in Anita’s house. It’s simple..but at least it’s real. Not air-bruhsed and glossed up! 2nd the rhythm section! The musicians were in a zone on this record! It felt as if they did the whole recording in a day. Every track flowed. Anita’s singing is on point as always. But the music stands out the most to me. It’s hard to pick just one tune off this album. I have to play it as a whole every time I listen to it.

Do you think “Compositions” has held up over time?

Ivan: I do to a certain extent, but I don’t think it has really gotten its just due in even Anita’s discography specifically and in the entire lexicon of R&B generally. There are moments that I love on The Songstress, Rapture, Rhythm of Love, My Everything and Giving You The Best That I Got, but as an entire statement I go to Compositions because that’s how I view that project. I wish more artists who identify themselves as coming under the heading of R&B or whatever you want to call it these days would do their homework using recordings like Compositions. Get together with some musicians and play and work out some great arrangements that you can play live as well as make a great recording. I’m often saddened when I hear music that I feel reduces our legacy to just a beat, then I put on a record like this to remind myself that at one point in time someone really got it.

Rick: I would use “Compositions” as reference before her other work. Compositions is a complete album. Not a project full of singles and filler tunes. It was also one of the last great albums by an “official” singer from the 90’s. I’m sure we could count on both our hands the one’s since.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.